Hundreds of indigenous people stormed Brazil\'s lower-house Chamber of Deputies to protest a bill that would hand over authority on territorial claims to the National Congress, a change that some fear would give the political upperhand to the country\'s ranchers who often spar with the indigenous over land.
Gathered in the capital Brasília for the country\'s Indigenous April - an annual event organized to celebrate the Day of the Indigenous Brazilian on April 19 – representatives of nearly 76 different ethnicities had arrived at the Chamber of Deputies in the morning of April 16, 2013 to discuss the controversial proposal with legislators. Tired of waiting by the end of the day, between 300 and 700 native Brazilians confronted security guards and burst into the session.
The group demanded the end of a proposed constitutional amendment that would pass the power of making final decisions about indigenous land demarcation from the executive branch to the legislative branch. The interruption was broadcast live by TV Câmara, the Chamber of Deputies’ channel, and was later widely shared on YouTube:This was not the first time the proposal triggered protests; demonstrations followed after Proposed Amendment number 215/00 was deemed admissible by the Chamber of Deputies constitution commission in March 2012.
Currently, indigenous land demarcation in Brazil is done through studies conducted by the government agency National Indigenous Foundation (FUNAI) and established by a presidential decree. If approved, amendment 215, which was proposed by congressman Almir Sá from Roraima state, would do away with FUNAI\'s autonomy to oversee research on territorial claims and would make it more difficult for land occupied by small farmers be designated as indigenous.
In a video posted by journalist Marcel Frota on YouTube, congressman Ivan Valente, from the Party for Socialism and Liberty (PSOL), defined the indigenous protest as a way of guaranteeing “constitutional rights”: